Airport discusses PFAS insurance settlement

Most of the settlement will go toward reimbursement of investigative expenses.

Ron Myrick of Tetra Tech briefed the public on the airport's PFAS investigation and proposed remediation plans in late January of 2019. - Lucas Thors

Updated Saturday, April 11

The Martha’s Vineyard Airport is in the process of finalizing a proposed $136,000 insurance settlement that would cover investigative costs related to the discovery of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

PFAS is a chemical found in aqueous film forming foams (AFFF) used in putting out aircraft fires.

The fluorinated firefighting foams that have been used at private and public airports like Martha’s Vineyard for decades were the only foams that met certain standards required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

In late November of 2019, Tetra Tech, the environmental consulting firm engaged by the airport to investigate private wells that could contain the chemical, finished phase one of its initial site investigation (ISI).

Since February of 2019, Tetra Tech engineers were installing activated carbon filtration systems for private wells that contained high levels of PFAS, and continued to monitor those wells periodically. 

In February, the airport entered into a multi-district lawsuit against AFFF manufacturers, in order to recoup remediation costs involved with testing more than 100 wells in the affected area, among other associated costs. 

Now, the airport hopes to recoup expenses related to the investigative efforts by Tetra Tech.

Airport commission chair Bob Rosenbaum clarified at a Thursday meeting that the insurance settlement with Chubb Insurance would not cover remediation costs.

Rosenbaum said he is confident the airport can pursue other avenues to pay for the remediation costs.

“I think it is a very good proposal, the lawyers at Anderson and Kreiger are looking at specific language, but the overall terms have been agreed to by the insurance company,” Rosenbaum said.

Originally, Rosenbaum stated that Chubb Insurance wanted to terminate their policy with the airport, but airport director Cindi Martin said they are currently engaging in the renewal process. Martin pointed out that the insurance company’s policy is exclusive to the airport, and is not related to the county.

Rosenbaum said he believes there will be “no more surprises” surrounding PFAS, and no more money will have to be spent on discovery efforts, thanks to the work of Tetra Tech.

The airport is poised to receive the insurance money within the next few weeks, according to Rosenbaum.

All of the funds will be placed back into the airport’s operating budget.

Rosenbaum said he is proud of the work the airport and related parties have done to solve the PFAS problem, which he said was “a situation we were legally required to be responsible for, and were also relatively ignorant of the risks involved until very recently.”

The commission took no formal action on approving the claim, and decided to wait until a completed document was available for review.

Updated to clarify that settlement money would not go to litigation related to PFAS. — Ed.